EPA approves program to protect Virginia drinking water wells

The U. S. EPA has approved Virginia's wellhead protection program, which supports community projects to protect underground drinking water sources.

"Virginia's wellhead protection program reflects Virginia's commitment to help protect critical underground sources of drinking water for 1.6 million customers. Wellhead protection is another important way that citizens can actively participate in protecting their own environment," said Donald S. Welsh, regional administrator for EPA's mid-Atlantic region.

"Wellhead protection at the local level is an important part of ensuring the quality of Virginia's water supply," said Robert G. Burnley director of Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. "DEQ and our partners at the Virginia Department of Health will continue to support local wellhead protection efforts through a program of technical assistance and funding opportunities."

Virginia's wellhead protection program focuses on developing safeguards to prevent contaminants from entering water supply wells. Wellheads are the locations where the water enters the well. The wellhead protection area is a wide, often irregularly shaped area surrounding the well that needs to be protected from potential contaminants including leaking underground storage tanks, pesticides leaching into the soil, and faulty septic systems that release harmful bacteria.

Community wellhead protection programs may include identifying sensitive wellhead areas that need protection, identifying potential sources of contaminants and managing the protected area.

The federal Safe Drinking Water Act requires all states to develop a wellhead protection plan. With an approved plan, Virginia is eligible to receive federal grants that communities can use for wellhead protection. During 2005, EPA is providing the Virginia DEQ and the Virginia Department of Health with $165,000 for wellhead protection at the local level.

Local and state governments, and water suppliers promote wellhead protection through public education, health regulations, monitoring surveys, zoning ordinances, land acquisition and other types of local planning. More information on EPA wellhead protection program can be found at http://www.epa.gov/OGWDW/whpnp.html.

Virginia communities interested in launching a wellhead protection program can call Virginia DEQ's Water Resources Division at (804) 698-4042 or visit their Web site at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/gwpsc/whp.htm.

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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